Podcast with Larry Dietz: Applying Military Info Ops Skills to the Civilian Workforce

Podcast Interview with Larry Dietz of TAL Global

Military servicemembers have skills and training that can be extremely useful in the civilian workforce, however, it’s challenging to figure out how to translate those skills to the commercial sector.

In this episode, Wes O’Donnell talks to AMU professor, retired U.S. Army Reserve Colonel Larry Dietz, about his military service and experience in psychological warfare, cyber warfare and information operations.  Larry Dietz is also a member of the TAL Global Team

Hear how servicemembers must work to define the hard and soft skills they learned in the military including the ability to identify credible sources of information, make decisions under pressure, and present complex situations in a direct and simplified way.

Key Discussions from Transcript

Wes O’Donnell: The military lives or dies on information. What would be the commercial equivalent of information superiority?

Larry Dietz: Well, the commercial equivalent of information superiority is brand reputation. So that when I think of a beverage, I automatically think of something that appeals to me that that company has spent a lot of money. For example, Snoop Dogg. While I’m not a big fan of Corona beer, I happen to be somewhat of a fan of Snoop Dogg. And so, Corona beer has now gotten information superiority in my mind when I think of beer on a beach.

Wes O’Donnell: What do you mean by soft skills?

Larry Dietz: Well, soft skills are the ability, for example, to interact with people. If you were in a tactical Military Information Support Operations, you would be expected to go to a foreign location and interact with the local population. Now, if you’re fortunate enough to have language skills, you’d be able to do that directly. Otherwise, you must understand the soft skill of working through an interpreter.

These soft skills are challenging to teach. If you work for an international corporation—I used to work for Symantec Corporation, and I toured Asia on behalf of the company—I had to understand that when I spoke directly, I would look at whom I’m talking to, not the interpreter.

Then, I would wait for the interpreter to translate what I had to say into the local language, with the appropriate nuances. So, the ability to convince people, the ability to use an interpreter, this is what I mean by soft skills.

Wes O’Donnell: I think you’ll agree, just recognizing the value of information itself as an asset. Many folks don’t give it a second thought. But you did mention earlier that some psychological operations closely relate to marketing and sales. So just curious, where do you think the difference between the two is?

Larry Dietz: Well, this is my opinion, not the Department of Defense’s opinion. Sales, to me, is the direct act of one-on-one convincing individuals to do something or to refrain from doing something. In the sense of psychological operations, you want to convince the enemy to surrender; you want to persuade adversaries to possibly come over to your side. You do this with key leader engagements. That’s personal selling to me.

Marketing is a lot more passive. Marketing might be a story about a medical mission that the civil affairs people orchestrated in a particular town, and the write-up of that story shows that the task force is there to help the people and support the people. That’s a form of marketing to me.

Let’s also talk about public relations, where the commanding general talks to the media and gives an interview or brochures, leaflets, or posters are made up. That’s collateral material. That’s all part of marketing as well.

Random but Powerful Thoughts from Larry Dietz

Discipline: Having the discipline to go through things you don’t like to do but move ahead, that’s a huge asset. In today’s workforce, it’s my personal experience that any kind of discipline makes you stand out above the crowd.

Decisions Under Pressure: In the military, we often make decisions under pressure and in a climate of uncertainty. When you’re in the commercial sector, you may be able to do that a lot better than your peers. There are some fields of endeavor that require that. For example, if you are a trial attorney, you will be asked to present your client’s case, and you may be faced with unexpected obstacles in the form of evidence presented by the other side. But having the military experience of decision making under pressure and under uncertainty, you’ll be able to succeed where others will not.

The Benefits of Information: We talked about information superiority, and part of that requires you to know more about the other guy’s information, how they got it, what they did with it, how they use it. Knowing this, you can make better decisions because you were inside the loop of that.

Unexpected Opportunities: Being an intelligence-trained individual is helpful in the commercial sector. Many companies, particularly high-tech companies, have robust competitive intelligence efforts. If you have been an intelligence person in the military, doors of opportunity can open for you.

Listen to the entire podcast here.

Read the entire transcript here.


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